Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that bringing forth in abundance the fruit of good works, they may be abundantly rewarded when our Savior Jesus Christ comes to restore all things; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.Book of Common Prayer
Liturgical prayers stir up my heart! I love written prayers, especially those from our liturgical brothers and sisters who use the Book of Common Prayer. The prayers lift my heart and mind upward and remind me of the truths of the gospel.
In the week before Advent, one prayer often used is the “stir-up” prayer quoted above. In the Church of England tradition, that Sunday before Advent is called “Stir-Up Sunday.” Besides reciting the prayer together, families would go home to stir up the Christmas pudding. Evidently, that pudding is one that benefits from a few weeks of ripening!
By the way, the tradition of stirring up the pudding was involved. The family would gather around to add 13 ingredients, representing the disciples and Jesus. The pudding was stirred east to west representing the travels of the magi to see Jesus. Everyone participated and as each gave a stir, they made a wish. A coin was often added to the pudding to be discovered on Christmas Day. It sounds like a lovely tradition. The ingredients for Christmas pudding involved several fruits, some flour, and bread crumbs, almonds, and often it was soaked in rum. It sounds a bit like our fruit cake! (Facts of the Day)
Notice in this prayer we are asking God to stir up our wills to produce spiritual fruit. That prayer is grounded in Scripture. Remember God’s promise to Israel, the new covenant He would establish … God says He would stir up our hearts to follow His ways!
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.Ezekiel 36:25-28 NIV
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul picks up on that same theme when he admonishes the Philippians to work out their salvation, reminding them that God is the one who stirs up our wills to do what pleases Him.
… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:12b-13
We have a responsibility also to fan the flames of the gifts given to us by the Spirit, to rekindle our passion, to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do. The Apostle Paul, awaiting death, wrote a very personal letter to Timothy, encouraging him in the work he was called to do.
I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV
Obviously, a first step in stirring up the gift of God in us is prayer, “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people!” We revive the gifts God has given us by using them for the building up of the body of Christ. Do you have the gift of encouragement, hospitality, giving, teaching … how are you using those gifts? We keep ablaze those gifts by not letting ourselves grow cold, distant, but instead, practicing being faithful! And we encourage others, spurring them on to good works, not forgetting to meet together, but living in community with one another.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV
As you stir up the cake, brownies, cookies, Christmas pudding, fruitcake over the next few days, I hope you will pray that God will also stir up your hearts bringing forth in abundance the fruit of good works!
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and as we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the race that is set before us, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.Book of Common Prayer
If you want to read more about spurring one another on to good works, I suggest this post, Draw Near.